Head coach Dan Campbell might have sounded to some like he was looking for bright spots in another gruesome loss that is testing the Detroit Lions' morale to the breaking point and beyond.
In reality, Campbell spoke of something far deeper and more lasting than a bright spot in the gloom of Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Lions lost on Greg Joseph's 54-yard field goal as time expired.
The winning kick came just 37 seconds after the Lions had taken the lead on D’Andre Swift's seven-yard touchdown run, followed by Jared Goff's pass to KhaDarel Hodge for a two-point conversion that gave the Lions a 17-16 lead.
It was another gut punch for the Lions, who only two weeks earlier had lost to the Ravens on a 66-yard field goal – longest in NFL history -- on the final play of the game.
Campbell seemed close to tears when he spoke in his postgame press conference, which was understandable and did not go unnoticed by his players.
"I think we all feel the same way he does," said Goff. "It's tough. It's as tough as it gets."
This week's Monday Countdown looks at the message Campbell sent in his press conference, Goff's rash of turnovers in the first five games and Campbell's reaction to them, and how Hodge came through in a role that could not have been expected of him.
There are takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, who's trending and the bottom line.
We start with Campbell's message:
1. Raw emotion: He was not delivering a prepared speech or reading from a monitor when he spoke to the media. At times he stopped for a deep breath.
He was asked how he processed the loss, with everything that happened in the last few minutes.
"I process it this way," Campbell said. "I'm proud of our players. Man, they fought their ass off. They gave us a chance at the end.
"They wanted it. They played to win. We came up short, which is of our own doing.
"Our defense played good enough to win. I thought those guys played outstanding. I told those guys after the game, when you play that way defensively, you have a chance to win every game.
"When you see our players give all that they have and they lose that way, it's tough. You want it for them.
"I love the fight they have in them. I love the grit. I like the guys we have on this team. I like how they go."
2. Turnovers: Campbell made specific references to a fumble by Goff that came on the Lions' second possession, with second down at the Vikings' 31 and the score 3-3.
On second and four, and with the Lions controlling the line of scrimmage, Goff was sacked and fumbled. The Lions wound up with no points on what was a promising possession. The Vikings recovered and drove to their second field goal for a 6-3 lead.
It was Goff's sixth fumble, and the fourth one he lost. He also had one pass intercepted, his third of the season.
"That'll be something we look at. It's killed us a couple weeks in a row."
Goff took the blame for the fumble.
"The fumble was just a lack of ball security on me," he said. "I thought they made a great play on the interception – a one-handed catch. I can't play afraid to make a mistake."
3. Going for two: It was no surprise to Goff that Campbell would go for two points rather than settling for a tie by kicking the extra point. When the Lions got the ball back on linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin's fumble recovery, Goff said Campbell told him they would go for two if they scored.
"I wanted to win that game and finish it out," Campbell said. "I trusted our guys. That was an easy decision for me to make."
What made the play a little more difficult was having Hodge take the place of wide receiver Quintez Cephus on the play. Cephus had left the game with a shoulder injury.
Hodge made the catch in the back of the end zone.
"I don't think KhaDarel ran that route, ever," Goff said.
4. Takeaways, offense:
- The 1-2 running punch is developing for the Lions. Swift (57) and Jamaal Williams (51) combined for 108 yards. Swift added six catches for 53 yards. Williams had two catches for eight yards.
- Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown is a reliable target for Goff. He had seven catches on eight targets for 66 yards. That makes 13 catches in the last two games.
- The lack of a big-play receiving threat is obvious. Goff seldom goes over the top.
5. Takeaways, defense:
- Safety Tracy Walker was more of a presence than in recent games, and it showed in the running stats. The Vikings rushed for 120 yards on 28 carries, but 48 were on a run by Alexander Mattison on a play when rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes whiffed on what should have been a tackle for a short gain, if anything.
- Rookie defensive end Levi Onwuzurike had his best game, with three solo tackles and an assist.
- Outside linebacker Charles Harris got his fourth sack in four games. That was a shrewd signing by the Lions.
6. Takeaways, special teams:
- Punter Jack Fox had his first touchback of the season. His other two punts forced the Vikings to begin possessions at their 12, 5 and 27.
- Austin Seibert was 3-for-3 on field goals in his first game back after being on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He had a long kick of 54 yards.
- Up: The defense. It held the Vikings to one touchdown and four field goals.
- Down: The offense. It went 59:23 without a TD.
8. Bottom line: The Lions cannot afford to give anything away. They aren't equipped at this point to have potential scoring possessions ended by turnovers.